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Photo by Clayton Cotterell

Aaron Ramcharan ’17


Hometown: Edmonton, Alberta, and Orlando, Florida

Who I was when I got to Reed: In high school, I was in a band with several friends, did martial arts, and started a philosophy club where I ran little seminars.

Influential book: James Baldwin’s essay “Notes of a Native Son,” is really important to me. There’s a lot of truth, beauty, happiness, and also intense sadness, in Baldwin’s piece that conveys how complex our relationships to our racial identities can be.

A concept that blew my mind: Philosophy brings intention to action and thought. Plato is one of my favorite philosophers. I work to understand the ways philosophy has contributed to the state of justice in the world. Many philosophers have contributed positively, but some people with complex philosophical thought have done extremely negative things.

Favorite class: I did an independent study with Prof. Darius Rejali [political science 1989–] on a question at the forefront of the work of Medieval Islamic philosophers: what it means to develop a relationship to yourself.

Outside the classroom: I was on the Student Committee for Academic Policy and Planning, worked for the admission office, and was a house adviser, which paid for my room and board—a huge component in how I was able to navigate the financial needs of going to a school like this. I spent almost 50 nights at Reed’s cabin on Mount Hood, including my 19th, 20th, and 21st birthdays.

How Reed changed me: I gave everything I could to my education and, in return, received more than I ever could have hoped for.

Adviser: Prof. Troy Cross [philosophy 2010–]

Thesis: “Intersectional Epistemology and the Problem of Social Ignorance”

What it’s about: Some of our knowledge and ignorance of others is due to who we are. Our ignorance of others can sometimes have harmful consequences. I argue that we have a duty to remediate our ignorance of others insofar as what we learn contributes to justice in society—even when that learning involves changing ourselves.

What it’s really about: The consequences of misunderstanding others and why we ought to foster understanding.

What’s next: I want to pursue law, but am also interested in philosophy as action—something beyond just sitting, writing, and thinking.

Financial aid: I benefited tremendously from financial aid at Reed and one day would love to give money to Reed myself and help people go to college.